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Getting that first assistant job

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peterd
Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 19, 2007 at 12:53:31 am

Ok so I graduated college about 2 years ago. After a good internship at a post house I pretty much had training as a tape op/tech. I really want to be an editor but my last two jobs have been focused more on the tech end of things(which I'm pretty good at). I've edited for a while but most of it is student level stuff and a few promos I did for my current job. I've gone ou of my way at my last few jobs to learn Avid and Final cut more extensively. I know I have the ability to do assistant editing work on either system but the trouble is all the assistant jobs I find want years of experience. Any advice on getting someone to give me a real shot at it? I'd hate to end up a glorified IT guy in a few years and never be able to get out of it.


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person
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 19, 2007 at 5:13:22 am

as with anything in this business it's about being at the right place with the right attitude and your ability to make that opportunity grow. sometimes taking on another internship may be needed if it gets you in the door of a place you want to be. just be ready to show your stuff when needed. good luck.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 19, 2007 at 4:04:28 pm

If you don't have Avid or FCP at home, try to get yourself at least the express versions or an academic version, and start building more skills and a reel from whatever you can get your hands on. For an exercise, take the same footage and re-cut it so each version conveys a different emotion while using the same shots. Anything to keep in practice and get an eye and ear for how to cut creatively. Then when somebody calls in sick, you'll be the hero.


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Peterd
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 19, 2007 at 4:39:07 pm

I have a copy of xpress pro at home. I was actually thinking of just farming myself out as a free editor at colleges to build up some materia l. Think that would be a decent way to get some work?



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Mark Suszko
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 19, 2007 at 5:29:30 pm

Be very careful about "free" work, and who you do it for. Once you do that with a client, they will forever expect it and you will find it nearly impossible to ever raise your rate with them. Plus, everyone else will want you to give them the same deal.

If you decide you want to do "pro-bono" work for a project, you should still keep track of your hours and day rate and hand the client an invoice showing what your work was worth, had you been actually charging. This will help you later to be able to say: "look, I love working with you guys, but I've already done x dollars worth of pro-bono work for you this year, and I can only give away so much of that a month and still pay my own bills, so you can wait another 4 weeks and I'll take a look at it, or you can pay my day rate now and I can do it right away. I can even set you up with an installment plan (thirds, POD) if you're hard-up, but if time is tight,I have to have some cash up front to get this going for you. You know my level of work is worth it, right?"

There are some "magic words" you need to be aware of. Any time a client tells you some variation of: "If you comp us on this one, we'll give you all our future business", he is absolutely LYING, and never intends to pay or use you again. Best to walk away from the deal as soon as you hear the magic words. Either they will cave and agree to pay, seeing that you are no bumpkin, or they will go find some other patsy to do the work for free "for the experience" as they like to say. That kind of business "experience", you don't need. You are an editor, not a loan company:-)


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grinner
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 20, 2007 at 10:04:48 pm

as AMrk mentined, free work becomes more expected and less apriciated over time. Your on the right track tho. Create some labors of love and push em as far as you can with effects. Show case what you cna do in a reel that is no longer than a few minutes. It's ok to start dong things at a low price but you've done your internship. No need to do it for free, imo.
Now, having said that, I landed many a sweet job in my day just by coming in to the place I wanted to work and making myself available for anything that may be done. I edited night time projects, hung shelves, took out the trash, whatever. I was explioted into making a few free demos for some companies but I also got some jobs I wanted. I was also getting my name out there in doing this and thats always good. Call around to the local post houses and let em know exactly what your looking for. One of em will either have a spot for you or have some this and that work they will have you do for em. You'll be shakin some hands and thats what ya need right now.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 19, 2007 at 5:18:10 pm

I forgot to add, keep offering your services for the unglamorous stuff like digitizing/logging or night editing. Talk to a local facility guy, ask for a tour, chat a bit then ask him if he'd like to get more productivity out of his idle gear overnight by having you come in and cut in the small hours, run dubs, etc. The business is actually very tight and most hiring IMO is based on personal relationships, your local reputation and people vouching for each other or recommending people they know. So the key in my opinion is to first get known in your local production community, any way you can, by gripping at gigs, by renting gear and working on small projects for yourself or a charity you favor, that sort of thing. Then when openings happen, usually the managers run thru a list in their heads of people they know that fit the needed skills and are trustworthy and competent. It is truly a daunting hassle to advertise an opening and take cold interviews and resumes and demo reels and still not be sure of what you're getting.

One thing I would stress is, never promise more than you can confidently deliver. We were backed up with lots of work one time, and the boss hired a guy with a lot of production experience to come take a load off. Well, the guy's main experience was as a writer and producer and sometime shooter; it turned out he didn't know the first thing about how to operate an editing system, he'd always just told an editor what and where to cut, while he supervised. In our shop, every guy is a one-man-band: write, produce, shoot, edit, audio, etc. Instead of him lightening my load, he increased it because on top of all my other jobs I had to train him, and he was at an age and a place in his personal life where he just didn't really want to try and learn new skills anymore. He didn't last very long, and frankly, I got more work done without his "help" than with him, even though I liked the guy personally and still do.


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peterd
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 20, 2007 at 12:17:08 am

Ah the wonders of film production slave labor.


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rocco
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 19, 2007 at 11:16:57 pm

This is the guy Mark was talking about, by the way ;o)









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Mark Suszko
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 19, 2007 at 11:41:28 pm

Yes, the Magic Words come in many variations:-) Another variation suggests that you're "investing" in the production. There is a legit practice of deferring payment in the business, but it's usually a very special case.

Typically, the only people who do that are already very well-off successful actors and directors, who work for scale or a deferment because of a personal friendship with the producer, or they really believe in the material but know it's not really "commercially viable". In that case, they are hoping some of the PR buzz from working on this "edgy, indie production" will translate into more better-paying commercial gigs.

Or it's just literally a favor they do for S___and giggles, just because. But, see, they can AFFORD to do those things once in a while. They already MADE their money.



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mikegn
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 23, 2007 at 9:54:27 pm

Having been an assistant editor on FCP, Avid, and Fire/Smoke, I can tell you the best way to become an editor's assistant is to
1) Stay late/ come early and learn the dang machine, front to back and end to end.
2) Chat up the artist/ editor you're assisting, you'll gain their trust if they like you and you might learn a thing or two along the way.

Confidence and competence are key, but equally important is the relationships you build to get the job. If people like/trust you, you're already halfway in the door. Just make sure you learn the job well, and the rest will take care of itself....

"Roto is not a skill, it's a job."


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Alan Bell
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 24, 2007 at 11:43:41 pm

Where are you located. I may be able to help you.

Alan Edward Bell
Editor


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adkimery
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 25, 2007 at 6:51:52 pm

I'll toss in my 2 cents as well.

As others have said building relationships is the only way to get consistent work. You can land the odd job from on-line postings, but word of mouth will get people calling you instead of you having to call them. Take people out to lunch/dinner/drinks (editors or AEs you work with, alumni, friends of friends who work in post, etc.,) and pick their brains. Ask them how they got to where they are and get across your desire, knowledge, and enthusiasm. Also, make sure you stay in contact with people (a simple "Hey, what's up?" e-mail every few months goes a long way). And, at least in LA, the best way to move up is to move out. By that I mean if you're working at Company A as a Tape Op and want to move up to AE you'll have a better chance of moving up by taking an AE position at Company B instead of trying to get promoted at Company A.

Get a job, any job, at a post house that has an online/offline workflow (not all do) and shadow the AEs (even if this means staying late on your own time). Knowing FCP/Avid in terms of editing and knowing them in terms of AEing are two very different things. It's pretty much the difference between being a race car driver and a race car mechanic.



-A


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mikegn
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 26, 2007 at 9:43:21 pm

[adkimery] "Knowing FCP/Avid in terms of editing and knowing them in terms of AEing are two very different things. It's pretty much the difference between being a race car driver and a race car mechanic."


That right there is the main difference in AEs and Editors....AE's gotta be organized, fast, AND know the machine enough to rip it apart and put it together. Get to know some engineers; when the box goes down, it's up to the AE and engineer to piece it together. Great analogy adkimery...

"Roto is not a skill, it's a job."


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Red Ochre
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 26, 2007 at 5:40:35 am

You've gotten a lof of good advice but thought I'd add my perspective.

I'm an AE about to start onlining (that's the promise anyway). I supervise all the loggers and dig'ers and while we have a lot of people knocking on our door VERY few of them show any initiative once they're in. I see them dig'ing material and checking there email. I'm not impressed and I tell the sup' as much. They go nowhere and will have a job in a mailroom somewhere soon.

I'm definately seen as the tech guy but it hasn't hurt me at all. I've saved shows that had to be out by fedex and producers remember that kind of thing.

I personally thing that at some point you're a professional and shouldn't work for free. Even if it's $ 8 an hour. You deserve to make something for you skills and if you don't value your work who will.

Anyways, add that to the pile.



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Peterd
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 26, 2007 at 10:51:28 pm

Ok a little more background. The tech stuff I'm pretty wellcovered since right now I work as a tech. If need be a could dissect an Avid down to nothing and put the entire thing back together without any trouble. I've found that having tech skills is a plus and a minus. So few people really seem to understand things like deck operations and wiring that's what they always want me to do. Trouble is I find it to be a tad dull and as far as I'm concerned a dead-end professionally(what am i going to do hook up the same wires in bigger places?).

And alan to answer your question I'm in NYC



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adkimery
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 27, 2007 at 2:16:29 am

mikegn,

Thanks. Back when I started shadowing the AE's at a place I used to work out I very quickly realized that the editing knowledge I had on FCP and Avid was very applicable to AE duties. And when I AE'd my first reality TV show. Wow. Talk about stuff they don't teach you in school.


Peterd,
You seem to be stuck in the catch-22 of being too good at what you do. This is kinda what I was talking about w/the "move out to move up" comment. When people get used to you doing job X it's sometimes hard for them to let you do job Y 'cause then they have to find a new person to do job X. When you are talking about jobs do you mean like staff jobs at a post house or short term, freelance gigs (like on a TV show or something)? Getting a digitizing job is how most people get their foot in the doors as AEs. While tapes are rolling you can take that 30min or 60min and follow the AE's around.

Knowing how to wire equipment up is very useful as an AE. Not only does it help w/trouble shooting, but on more than one occasion I've had to pretty much rewire bays if a deck has gone bad or there is only 1 Digi (for example) and we now need it in Bay 3 instead of Bay 6. I was a deck monkey before getting AE gigs and I put that knowledge to use on a regular basis as an AE. Producers will love you when you can get a bay up and running instead of having hours of down time waiting for the rental house to send a tech over to fix it.

Unfortunately I'm in LA and don't have any NYC contacts so my help is limited to advice here on the Cow.


-A


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peterd
Re: Getting that first assistant job
on Jan 29, 2007 at 10:02:53 pm

Thanks alot for all the good advice guys. I'm going to start compiling a list of post-facilties nearby and I'll give them a call and start looking for some assistant work.


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